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Bail Set at $800,000 for Lake Doctor Accused of Hiring Hit Men

TAVARES – A Lake County doctor accused of paying hit men to kill a former business partner could be released from jail if he surrenders his passport, wears a monitoring device and comes up with $800,000 for bail.

Lawyers for Akram Ismail, 52, persuaded a judge to set bail for the doctor, who has been in the Lake County Jail without bond since his arrest in October on charges of soliciting hitmen to commit murder.

Ismail has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

His defense team, which includes Orlando lawyers Mark NeJame and Rick Jancha, argued that the doctor was constitutionally entitled to a pretrial bond, pointing out he had strong, significant ties to the community.

His practice, family and friends are located in Lake County.

But the four-hour hearing, which ended late Wednesday, evolved into a mini-trial with Assistant State Attorney Sue Purdy calling three witnesses, including both alleged hitmen and their intended target, Dr. Nehme Gabriel, Ismail's former associate.

Purdy said both hitmen secretly taped conversations with Ismail.

Ismail is accused of trying to arrange the murders of Gabriel, a medical associate who split from Ismail's practice in 2006 and built new offices in The Villages, and an ex-patient, whom Ismail first paid to kill Gabriel.

An investigative summary, obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, alleges that Ismail wanted Gabriel maimed, "sexually exploited" and killed, and that Ismail wanted the second hitman to kill the first for failing to fulfill the contract.

Those records allege that Ismail also wanted the hitmen to destroy Gabriel's medical center.

Both alleged hitmen were patients of Ismail.

Defense lawyers relied on Ismail's wife, Valerie; a neighbor; and medical associates to paint a softer portrait of the doctor, saying he sometimes provided free medical care to needy patients who could not afford his services.

Valerie Ismail, 34, the doctor's wife of 14 years, also testified that she planned to withdraw the divorce demand she filed after his arrest.

After his arrest the doctor's medical license was suspended by Florida Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros, who labeled Ismail's alleged conduct as evidence of "warped judgment and disregard for human life – the antithesis of that which is required and expected of physicians."

Ismail has not yet posted bond.

Circuit Judge G. Richard Singeltary also set other conditions of pre-trial release for Ismail if the doctor is able to hire a bondsman or assemble the cash for bail. Ismail would be placed on house arrest, wear a global-positioning device and give up his passports. He also could have no contact with Gabriel, the alleged hitmen, their families or associates.

Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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